Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Music/Sound 2013

David Dunn

A close up, black and white portrait of David Dunn in front of a pine tree. He has short white hair and a gotee and wears headphones, thin wire glasses, a dark jacket and a white t-shirt.
Photo by Katrina Milne.
  • 2013 Grants to Artists
  • Music/Sound
  • Composer, Performer, Researcher
  • Born San Diego, CA, 1953
  • Lives in Santa Fe, CA
  • Additional Information

As an independent artist without a permanent academic or professional position, this kind of gift is especially important and has allowed me to dedicate time towards work that otherwise would not have been possible… Concrete artistic production during this time has mostly consisted of technical fabrication, something that is somewhat unique to the kind of sound work that I do.

- David Dunn, November 27, 2013

Artist Statement

Much of my work attempts to convince others of the diversity of auditory worlds that surround us and the surprising nature of the acoustical mediums through which they pass. I am also interested in establishing a context of relevance for this awareness and in inventing affordable tools for its exploration. Underlying all of this is a polemic that argues for the necessity of an aural art form that positions itself both within a discourse between art and science, and where the non-human living world consequently takes center stage.

Given the avalanche of messages that we are receiving from the Earth in the form of disrupted natural cycles, increasing natural disasters, unprecedented loss of biological diversity, global warming, etc., it seems apparent that we are truly beginning to pass through the eye of the environmental needle. No matter how impressed we may be with the world we construct through the lenses of our own conceptual and linguistic making, our constructs seem facile before the melting of glaciers and the fury of hurricanes. Perhaps one of the best uses of my time, as a composer, is to simply discover and listen to nature's changing messages and pass them along to others.

- December 2012


David Dunn is a composer and sound artist. He creates text and sound compositions and environmental installations. He is an expert wildlife recordist and a bioacoustic researcher. His music straddles the world of sound and science.

Selected works and performances include Angels and Insects (1992), Music, Language and Environment (1997), Why Do Whales and Children Sing?: A Guide to Hearing in Nature (1999), Four Electroacoustic Compositions (2002), The Sound of Light in Trees (2006), Autonomous and Dynamical Systems (2007), Insects, Trees, and Climator: The Bioacoustic Ecology of Deforestation and Entomogenic Climate Change (2009), and Extractions des Espaces Sauvages: Cybernetique de l'ecoute et ecologie sonore. Textes 1981-2011 (2011).

Prior to his 2013 Grants to Artists, Dunn received a Composer Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1977), an Interdisciplinary Grant from New Mexico Arts (1989), an Alpert Award in Music (2005), a Henry Cowell Award from the American Music Center (2007), and grants in scientific research.

In addition to his artistic pursuits, David has served as president of both the Art and Science Laboratory and the Acoustic Ecology Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Beginning in 1973, Dunn studied independently with Harry Partch, Kenneth Gaburo, Pauline Oliveros, and Jerzy Grotowski. He received his M.F.A. at the Transart Institute at Danube University in Austria, and has lectured and taught at several colleges and universities.

Aerial view arrangement of wrapped chords and other box-like recording devices.
FCA-supported custom-made transducer system, 2013.
Dunn standing beside a murky green, algae-filled pond dangling a device attached to headphones above the water.
Dunn recording in the field.
Chart of appearance time mapped to sound sources including 'Metal egg chime', 'Baobab seedpod', and 'Trees (ultrasonic emissions)'.
Sound sources in Listening to What I Cannot Hear, 2008.
Listening to What I Cannot Hear, 2008.
Horizontal metal structure shaped like adjoined tapered reeds in a tan-colored backyard filled with rocks, bushes, and remnants of snow.
Organ-pipe shotgun microphone, mode with FCA grant funds, 2013.
Drawings in black against a white background of abstract lines and shapes resembling stars, sound waves, and leaves.
Excerpt of score of Errant Light, 2001.